صدى البلد البلد سبورت قناة صدى البلد صدى البلد جامعات صدى البلد عقارات
Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

AP: Messi, Argentina Try to Avoid World Cup Upset vs. Australia


Fri 02 Dec 2022 | 02:56 PM
Messi
Messi
By Ahmad El-Assasy

Australia's players speak in glowing, almost reverential terms about Lionel Messi. "He just does things that, you know, no one else can do," forward Mathew Leckie said, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Even further was taken by Milos Degenek. The Socceroos defender called him "perhaps the best footballer to ever grace the game."

Imagine how they will feel when they play on the same field as Messi and his Argentina team on Saturday in the World Cup's round of 16.

For a group of unnoticed players who were predicted to be leaving the tournament by this point, these are moments to pinch oneself. The World Cup has been full of upsets, starting when Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina in perhaps the most unlikely victory in the tournament's 92-year history. But here they are in Doha, hoping to pull off the latest one.

That established the tone for the subsequent two weeks, during which Australia shocked Denmark, Morocco overcame Belgium, Tunisia defeated France, and Japan defeated both Germany and Spain.

Australia wants to increase that list.

Nobody anticipates us to triumph, Leckie stated. Let's shock the world, then.

But don't anticipate any laziness from the Argentina team. Not in light of what happened to Saudi Arabia in the group stage.

Messi, who is attempting to win the World Cup for the fifth time and most likely in his final effort, stated, "We know, at the moment, everything is very difficult." "The opposition is complicated overall. We are the best at understanding it."

None of Argentina's players will dare get ahead of themselves but it's undeniable that the draw has opened up for them.

"We went back to being what we were for a long time," Messi said after Argentina's 2-0 win over Poland that secured a place in the last 16, "and how we were looking to be at the beginning of the World Cup, which for different reasons we could not manage.

"It gives confidence for what is coming."

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni looks to have finally found a winning formula in Qatar. The center of midfield now appears to be set, with Alexis Mac Allister and 21-year-old Enzo Fernandez having forced their way into the starting team alongside Rodrigo De Paul.

Up front, Julian Alvarez has dislodged Lautaro Martinez and should keep his place against Australia, fresh from finishing off a 27-pass sequence for an exquisite second goal against Poland.

The only place that looks up for grabs is at center back, with Lisandro Martinez having dropped out against Poland perhaps so Argentina had a taller player to deal with the aerial threat of Robert Lewandowski.

Given only one player in Australia's 26-man group plays in Europe's top five leagues, it appears to be a mismatch at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. For spells of its win over Poland, Argentina played like a team that arrived in Qatar riding a 36-match unbeaten record and as one of the tournament favorites.

And then there's the Messi factor, a subplot which is hanging over the World Cup as he looks to win the only major title to elude him in his career.

"I think they're obviously driven by the motivation that it could be Messi's last World Cup," Degenek said, "and he wants to win the World Cup and end it on a high.

"For us, it's about stopping that. Unfortunately, I'm a big fan of his, but I'd love to win the World Cup probably more than him."